Wenyi and the branding of early Chinese film

Emilie Yueh Yu Yeh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


This article reviews the role of wenyi in Chinese cinema from the turn of the twentieth century to the breakout of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937. Wenyi/letters and arts, a loan word from the Japanese bungei, was associated with western fiction, and concepts of humanism, equality and freedom. These concepts were propagated by translators of Japanese and western literature, many of whom belonged to the Mandarin Ducks and Butterfly School and were key agents in the nascent culture industry, leaving their marks in intertwined fields, including literature and cinema. By tracing their crossover activities we find evidence of the fertility of the wenyi concept in early cinema. Furthermore, our findings show that in order to sell motion pictures, the early film industry tended to brand film as a new type of wenyi commodity, thereby mobilizing wenyi as a marketing strategy to help purvey movies to audiences with cosmopolitan aspirations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-94
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Chinese Cinemas
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2012

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts

User-Defined Keywords

  • Branding
  • Chinese film
  • Film and literature
  • Film marketing
  • Mandarin ducks and butterfly literature
  • Wenyi early


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